Not just laptops, but any of your wireless devices (and this includes even your smartphone) use batteries, as well as others such as the battery of your car or motorcycle. If you have ever been interested in looking at the specifications, you will have noticed that the capacity of the battery is usually measured in mah, a term that most understand as “more is better”, but do you really know what it means and what it implies? In this article we tell you.
The term mAh means milliampere per hourbut if you don’t have much idea of electronics, it is something that will not tell you much except for what has already been mentioned, that a greater amount implies that the battery has a greater capacity and that, therefore, the autonomy should be greater (although later we will see that This is not always the case because it depends on other factors, battery capacity is not the same as autonomy).
What do the mAh of batteries measure?
As we just mentioned, mAh stands for milliampere hour, a unit that measures electrical charge. To understand it better, “milli-” is a prefix that means thousandth, so a milliampere equals 0.001 amps. The suffix “-hour” means that this current is multiplied by one hour, the unit of time that we all know. Since current is equal to electrical charge divided by time, the amount of electrical charge is obtained by multiplying the mA times one hour.
In batteries, mAh is a measure of battery capacity, and uses all three concepts (electrical charge, current, and time) to estimate how much electricity a battery can hold. To give an example, if a battery has a capacity of 1,000 mAh, it means that when fully charged it is capable of maintaining an electrical flow of 1,000 mA for one hour, although it is important to note that this does not mean that it is capable of maintain those 1,000 milliamps constantly (if that were true, all batteries would last exactly one hour). As we have said, it is a estimate.
To put this in perspective, imagine you have a standard alkaline battery (regardless of capacity). That same battery would last much longer if you use it in a wall clock than if you install it in a PC mouse, despite having the same capacity. For this reason, we have indicated before that having a greater capacity is not always synonymous with providing greater autonomy, because it then depends on the consumption of the device to which we connect the battery.
Another concept that must be taken into account for this reason is that there is a difference between the capacity and the maximum electrical current that it is capable of providing (this is called discharge capacity). For example, imagine a cell or battery with a capacity of 5,000 mAh, but whose discharge capacity is 15 Amps. According to what we have explained to you previously, if you were constantly discharging those 15A (15,000 mA) the battery would last well under an hour.
Does greater capacity mean more autonomy?
With what we have explained so far, you should already know the answer to the “million dollar question”, but let’s make it even clearer and explain why below… will a battery that has more mAh provide greater autonomy? The answer is that it depends.
Let’s explain it with an example as simple as possible: imagine the PS5 controller, whose original battery has a capacity of 1,560mAh, and SONY says that its autonomy is 8 hours if all the functions of the remote are used. Regardless of the discharge capacity, and if we take into account that the consumption of the controller would always be the same, if we installed a battery of, for example, 2,000 mAh in the PS5 controller, the autonomy would be extended. In other words: putting a higher capacity battery in the same device will increase autonomy.
However, if we used this same 1560 mAh battery whose autonomy in the PS5 controller is 8 hours in another device with a higher consumption, the autonomy would be less. For example, imagine that you install this battery in a drone, a device that has a fairly high consumption: does this mean that you will be able to fly the drone for 8 hours? Obviously not, since its consumption is higher, those 1,560 mAh will run out much faster.